Scenes of hell or underworld were common moments (occasions?) for dancers to appear on the 17th and 18th century stage. From the ballet de cour Les Noces de Pélée et de Thétis (1654) to Noverre’s ballets d’action such as Medée et Jason (1763), from Lully’s tragedies Alceste and Thésée (1675) to Gluck’s Orpheo ed Euridice (1762), the infernal characters appeared in most of the tragic stories inspired by mythology. Such scenes demanded exaggerated expressiveness in movement and design alike. Furies and demons were supposed to scare the heroes but also the audiences: their dance was fast and wild, full of high leaps and turns; acrobatic routines were not unusual.
Another group that I would like to include in this presentation will be the principal characters of sorceresses, Armidas and Médeas, fascinating personalities that are of high status and evil at the same time.
Thanks to the great amount of visual material that is preserved in French and Swedish archives, we can follow the development of the art of depicting these horror creatures. My main questions regarding these sources are: Which symbols and signs were characteristic for them? How did the movement influence the designs? Were there any constant features that prevailed through all the researched period? Was the representation of these creatures rather traditional or might it be seen as revolutionary in relation to development of balletic costume design?
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Petra Dotlačilová, M.A. Doctoral student
Graduated at the Charles University (Italian philology) and Academy of Performing Arts (Dance Studies) in Prague, Czech Republic.
In her research she focuses on the practice of ballet pantomime in Europe during the second half of the 18th century and more recently on the problematic of the theatrical costume of the period. She is working on the analysis and translation of theoretical texts and ballet and opera librettos from this period (texts by choreographers Gasparo Angiolini and Jean-Georges Noverre, Italian opera). In 2013 her MA dissertation was published in Prague under the title Vývoj baletu-pantomimy v osvícenské Evropě (The Development of ballet pantomime in Enlightenment Europe).
In February 2015 she commenced doctoral research at the University of Stockholm with a project entitled “The Characters of the 18th Century Stage: Libretto – Costume – Representation”. In her thesis she will examine the development and reforms of the theatre costume in Paris from the perspective of Enlightenment concepts of ‘nature’, ‘truth’, ‘character’ and ‘nation’. In March 2015 she also began a collaboration with Dr Hanna Walsdorf’s project “Ritual Design for the Ballet Stage: Constructions of Popular Culture in European Theatrical Dance (1650–1760)” at the University of Leipzig.